The exhibit will also spiritually connect today's generation with More's generation, Graffius explained. "It connects them to a time when people in the past are facing the same problems that people are facing nowadays," she said.
At the end of the exhibit is a section on Archbishop John Carroll, the first Catholic bishop in the United States, and his cousin Charles Carroll, the only Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence. The Carrolls both attended the Jesuit College of St. Omer in France in the 1740s, the predecessor of Stonyhurst.
"Both John and Charles Carroll were heavily influenced by the example of Thomas More during their years as students," Patrick Kelly, executive director of the St. John Paul II shrine, noted. "At St. Omer's, the legacy of Thomas More was greatly revered, and the students would remove their hats out of respect as his name was read aloud during their daily martyrology," he added.
The Carrolls saw religious freedom as "foundational" to the United States, he said, and this was the patrimony they inherited from St. Thomas More.
There is a reason why the exhibit is housed at the St. John Paul II shrine in Washington, D.C., Supreme Knight Carl Anderson explained. John Paul II declared More the patron saint of politicians and statesmen in 2000, and Washington is the U.S. capital city.
"At the time, St. John Paul II also said that Thomas More demonstrated in a singular way the value of a moral conscience, which is the witness of God Himself," Kelly explained. "A shrine dedicated to John Paul II is a fitting place for this exhibit."
"John Paul II himself had experienced government attempts to suppress the Catholic faith in his own country of Poland," Kelly continued. "And throughout his life, he spoke frequently and fervently of the inherent right of persons in faith communities to live their faith fully in the public square."
Anderson also admitted that More's witness to religious freedom is especially important today.
"When Pope Francis came to the United States last year, he indicated that religious liberty, rights was conscience was a very important component of the American tradition," Anderson said. "So we think that this is a way of carrying forward a bit of the concern that Pope Francis had when he visited the United States."
Kelly hoped that the exhibit will teach the faithful about More's witness to conscience and his integrity.
More laid a "brilliant example for a new generation" about the "unity of faith and action," Kelly said. He also had a "very well-formed conscience," a lack of which has created a "crisis that we face today."
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Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.